Manufacturing skills gap problem grows, takes national stage

Employers are looking to hire, but they unable to find qualified, skilled workers. Adding to the problem, 2.7 million manufacturing employees are expected to retire in the next decade. What is Washington doing about the growing skills gap problem?


The U.S. manufacturing sector employs more than 12 million U.S. workers directly and creates almost 7 million more jobs in related industries.  But American manufacturers are struggling with the problem of the skills gap.

Washington is taking an increased interest in the manufacturing skills gap issue. President Obama issued an official memorandum in January stating that Vice President Biden will lead an across-the-board reform of the country’s training programs. The focus of the initiative is to better match the skills training initiatives with the needs of employers.

The Office of the Vice President will coordinate this effort with the National Economic Council, the Domestic Policy Council, the Council of Economic Advisers, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, and the Office of Management and Budget as well as the Secretaries of Labor, Commerce, and Education. The president’s memorandum specifically states that the secretaries shall consult with industry, employers, and their associations. 

Increasing engagement with employers and trade associations, developing best practices for workers, job seekers, employers, trainers, and better coordination among educators and federal workforce training program development are among the inititative's goals. An important focus is also encouraging regional partnerships among industry, educators, unions, and training providers regarding training programs. 

In a recent survey of metalworking manufacturers including National Tooling and Machining Association (NTMA) and Precision Metalforming Association (PMA) members, 74% of companies reported they currently have skilled job openings. Further underscoring the problem, 90% of respondents said they are having severe or moderate challenges recruiting qualified employees. 

This data clearly shows a skilled workforce is essential to manufacturing our way to a stronger economy. It is encouraging that some in Washington are beginning to recognize the need to address the skills shortage manufacturing businesses face. 

The National Press Club (NPC) will take a closer look at the manufacturing skills gap on May 6 at one of its Newsmaker events, which is a one-hour news conference open to all credentialed press members of the National Press Club and their guests. The event will feature the NTMA Chairman, Ted Toth, PMA Chairman, Jody Fledderman, American Jobs for American Heroes Campaign Director, Steve Nowlan, and Lackawanna College President, Mark Volk.

- Edited by Jessica DuBois-Maahs, Associate Content Manager, CFE Media, 

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